Friday, April 3, 2009

Is the Final Four recession proof?

Detroit and NCAA officials are predicting big doings this weekend for the NCAA men's basketball championship. More than 100,000 visitors are expected this weekend, NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn tells the Squeeze. That means $30 to $50 million of economic impact to a city that's been struggling long before the recession.

The matchups are stellar, with elite programs North Carolina and Connecticut paired against gritty teams in Villanova and hometown favorite Michigan State. If ever there were an opportunity for sports to show its resiliency in the recession, this might be it. "Everybody's got their eye on this right now," said Skip Sauer, a Clemson professor of economics who specializes in sports.

The early signs are not good.

Advertising and economic impact figures won't be available until sometime after the tourney is over, but Final Four ticket prices on sites such as eBay and ticket broker StubHub are down significantly compared to previous years.

As of yesterday, the average ticket price on StubHub for today's game and Monday's final games was $447, down more than $200 from last year's Final Four in San Antonio. The 2009 average is the lowest since StubHub started tracking Final Four prices five years ago.

This despite ticket prices jumping about $50 after Michigan State advanced with an Elite Eight victory Sunday.

One possible drag on prices is an abundant supply of tickets, thanks to Ford Field's 72,000-seat capacity. The better explanation, according to StubHub spokesman Sean Pate: "Most of it has to do with the economy. We're seeing it across the board in sports."

Two stark, high-profile examples: Average StubHub ticket prices for the 2009 Super Bowl were $2,400 - an $1,100 drop from the year before. At the Masters golf tournament, where buyers have consistently been willing to spend more than a thousand dollars for a single-day badge, prices are at $500 and dropping this month, Pate said.

"There's been a mistaken notion that sports is recession proof," says Clemson's Sauer. "That's been exploded in the past year."

One possible exception, from the News & Observer - if UNC wins it all Monday, everything blue will turn to green.

Are you skipping the Final Four this year for financial reasons - or are you heading to Detroit for a potentially special weekend for your team? E-mail me at


Anonymous said...

Why would you pay over $400 to attend a game you can see on TV? $447 buys a lot of groceries and/or other services.

About the only recession-proof business is the funeral industry and its associated services.

Walmart Tarhole said...

I hear that UNC gear is flying off the shelves at walmart.

James said...

Duke memorabilia cannot be given away because of the decline in the basketball program and the grim outlook into the future. Duke t-shirts are now being used to polish the furniture at Wal-Mart, Rooms to Go, and Big Lots. The rest are used in toilets throughout Durham, and you can use your imagination on that one. All hope is lost in Coach K and the slim recruiting done at Duke because UNC has snatched up all the great freshman talent for the 2009-2010 season. Duke may now change it's colors to red and white so it fits in the standings with State.... Bye Duke, you had a good, short run at one time....HEELS RULE

Anonymous said...

After the latest mass killings todau in NY all this seem very frivilous as these events seem to be occuring every week or so. The last one was 8 dead in wheelchairs in NC last Sunday.

Whos next?

America has gone insane.

America is C R A C K I N G !!!!!

After 8 yrs of Bush Neocon war with suicide bombers and millions dead maimed in Iraq and the economic meltdown Great Depression part II worldwide it seems things are coming apart as even Obama continues this neverending warfare and his first socialist budget is an ungodly 3.5 trillion.

C R A C KKKKKKKKKKKK goes the nation and world.

Hope Bush and his neocons are happy.

How many more will die? We only have 600 million firearms in America excluding the cops and military.

Its impossible to stop a suicide bomber anywhere. Va Tech 32 shot dead in 30 seconds proved it too.

Anonymous said...

I lived in Detroit for 36 years. I wouldn't go back there unless something happened to a family member.

Downtown (it's called that in Detroit) is like Uptown Charlotte. It will be cleaned up to be showy.

But if you ponder out into some areas, as in Charlotte, you better have protection.

The area I lived in a little girl, are mostly boarded up or drug hangouts.

I am sure that Michigan's Governor is ecstatic that the Final Four is played in Michigan because they really really NEED the money! In a way it is fitting it is there, since this may keep the state/city running a little longer than having to use their "stimulus" money.

But if the game was played in Charlotte, I would attend, but not for a week or month salary. That's absolutely ridiculous. If you're attending: it must be nice to be rich!